Kids and technology: 7 Ways to prevent tech addiction.
Updated: Aug 25
Could you potentially be dealing with a tech addicted child? Tech addiction in children is a real concern for parents, yet according to the latest studies, the average age of children who have their own device is 6 yrs old. So what should you be looking for and what can you do if you think your child may have a tech addiction?
Signs of Tech Addiction
I think it's important acknowledge that we live in a tech heavy world. People without a fluent understanding of technology are in most cases at a disadvantage. Due to this, I believe banning electronics is not the way to go if you want to facilitate healthy use of electronics. Children without access to electronics often feel very isolated from their peers and may have trouble competing with other students academically. Personally I carry my iPad with me regularly while working in schools. It is a very versatile resource that enables me to create resources on the fly. So if you're freaking out because your child is defaulting to technology to solve problems and complete tasks you may first want to take a look at these signs of an actual tech addiction:
Trouble emotionally regulating
All conversations revolve around tech experiences
Low self esteem
Irritable mood swings
Constantly wanting to see people's screens
Why does this happen?
Technology has a lot of opportunity to form addictions. Its fast, its legal, it's at your fingertips, its amazing, its personalized, it's under your control and it's readily available. Technology actually has been proven to alter brain functions and neural pathways. Every interaction with a personal digital device can release dopamine into the brain which makes us feel good and in turn, want more. Often people who struggle to get their needs met appropriately gravitate to the simple pleasure of a glowing screen.
For kids, I think it's also worth mentioning the tremendous feeling of power that comes with having their own personal tech device. In many ways, that device is the one thing in which they have complete control over. Where this begins to get a little scary is how technology and the internet is a predator for childhood curiosity. Unfortunately a device can begin to fill in as a parent because parenting is hard and technology is designed to be easy. The internet isn't afraid to have those uncomfortable conversations with your kids, it's also always available. The temptation of grown-up knowledge can be very addicting to young minds with minimal guidance.
So what can we do?
Here are some simple things you can do to help facilitate technology in your household and insure that the tech doesn't become a problem.
1. Limit exposure
The quickest and easiest way to prevent an addiction is to limit exposure to the addictive
substance. There are a lot of settings built into most devices that allow you to limit content and prolonged usage. Knowing these settings is a must if you intend to create a healthy tech dynamic in your household. There are also several apps available that can help you set the availability of tech times and monitor technology usage.
For an outline of kid friendly iPad settings and apps to help limit tech exposure, check out this youtube video.
2. Limit brain waster games
Technology can be used for a lot of creative and educational means, however, most people would rather play Candy Crush. Limit the mindless games on your child's device to 5 or less games and don't pay for them. Mindless games are ones in which there is little purpose and the interface is incredibly simple. I would suggest putting one of each of the following style games and no more.
Run games - Swipe to avoid obstacles as their character uncontrollably continues to move forward.
Match 3 - Swiping to create 3 in a row combinations
Tap games - Games where simply tapping the screen creates progress.
Open exploration games - Games where users explore an open world, however there are no goals or reasons for the interaction.
God like - Games where users make a digital character do whatever they want.
3. Pay for creation apps
Often when I carry my iPad in schools the first question I get is, "What games do you have?" Most kids have no idea you can use an ipad to actually create things. Downloading photography apps, stop motion animation apps, and educational apps is what you want to fill your child's device with.
4. Create good portable toys
A portable toy car case, doll house or lego set is a relatively simple and effective way to help your child steer clear of tech when out and about. These toys are also more enjoyable to interact with and generate imagination and possibility thinking. Keep in mind that these toys might get lost from time to time so don't break the bank. I would highly suggest creating nice miniature carrying cases for these toys to keep in the family vehicle.
Check out our pinterest page for pins of our favourite activities and resources.
5. Play board games
There are so many great games being released at your local game store. Invest in fun family games to play. Card and board games actually facilitate social interaction and interpersonal skills which is the exact opposite of technology.
6. Make your home a creative environment
Keep the felts juicy, paper stocked, and supplies organized. Ok, this is easier said then done, but if you can insure that there is always something interesting available it is more likely kids will find other ways to stay engaged instead of staring at a screen. I suggest buying nice kits and creative spaces. The more creative supplies and spaces you have the more creativity can be accessed when your child has a flash of genius.
7. Get outside!
This ones pretty simple and straight forward. Make sure your kids have good outdoor gear so the outside can be enjoyed no matter the weather. Research good outdoor places to explore and have a few with undercover areas. These could be parks, schools, playgrounds, trails, or beaches. Visit them regularly and often and make sure to bring some cool things to play with, such as shovels, magnifying glasses, balls, and anything else cool you can think of.
Also look at signing up your kids for extracurricular activities. Find some parents that want to do the same and share the load of the back and forth. If you share the responsibility of getting your kids there the less inconvenience you'll feel.